The scientific name means 'large'. The grand skink, named in 1845, was one of the earliest lizard species to be described from New Zealand (Whitaker & Loh 1995).
The colour pattern on the dorsal, lateral and ventral surfaces are unique to the species in its range.
Two forms are recognised, generally divided between 'eastern' and 'western populations' (Jewell 2008):
A large skink (up to 115 mm SVL, 29 g weight) (Jewell 2008).Dorsal surfaces black, with numerous yellow, cream, green or pale grey flecks, sometimes with a thin, pale dorso-lateral stripe. Lateral surfaces as for dorsal surface, but with more numerous flecking in the lower latero-ventral side. Ventral surfaces cream, uniform. Throat faintly speckled with black. Toes and tail are particularly long (Jewell 2008).
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